Cultural Anthropologist Dettwyler to Speak at Potomac State College

The Potomac State College of West Virginia University Sociology Department and the Social Justice Committee are pleased to sponsor Guest Speaker Katherine Dettwyler, Ph.D., a cultural anthropologist, Tuesday, March 29, at 5 p.m., in the Davis Conference Center. This presentation is free and open to the community.Katherine Dettwyler, Ph.D

Dr. Dettwyler’s research interests include:

  • Medical anthropology/Evolutionary medicine
  • Nutritional anthropology
  • Infant/child feeding practices (cross-cultural and evolutionary perspectives on breastfeeding, weaning and solids)
  • Growth and development
  • Research methodology
  • Ethical/philosophical issues in anthropology and medicine

Her book, “Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa” won the Margaret Meade award and is currently being read by Potomac State’s Cultural Anthropology class. To follow is an excerpt from Amazon about the text:

One of the most widely used ethnographies published in the last twenty years, this Margaret Mead Award winner has been used as required reading at more than 600 colleges and universities.

This personal account by a biocultural anthropologist illuminates not-soon-forgotten messages involving the sobering aspects of fieldwork among malnourished children in West Africa. With nutritional anthropology at its core, Dancing Skeletons presents informal, engaging, and oftentimes dramatic stories that relate the author's experiences conducting research on infant feeding and health in Mali.

Through fascinating vignettes and honest, vivid descriptions, Dettwyler explores such diverse topics as ethnocentrism, culture shock, population control, breastfeeding, child care, the meaning of disability and child death in different cultures, female circumcision, women's roles in patrilineal societies, the dangers of fieldwork, and facing emotionally draining realities. Readers will laugh and cry as they meet the author's friends and informants, follow her through a series of encounters with both peri-urban and rural Bambara culture, and struggle with her as she attempts to reconcile her very different roles as objective ethnographer, subjective friend, and mother in the field.

Dr. Dettwyler earned her Bachelor of Science degree in anthropology from the University of California, Davis, in 1977; her master’s degree from Indiana University, Bloomington in 1981; and her doctorate degree in anthropology also from IU Bloomington in 1985.